It’s Christmas time again. You know, the “most wonderful time of the year,” as the song goes. We celebrate the birth of our Savior. We sing songs, give gifts, throw parties, bake cookies, trim the tree, hang lights. It’s all beautiful. It’s joyful. And it’s painful.

I was driving home the other night from the hospice facility where my father-in-law is receiving care during the late stages of cancer. I passed house after house strung with bright lights. Holiday tunes played on the radio. I couldn’t help but be struck with the irony of it all. It’s not the most wonderful time of the year for my family watching my husband’s dad suffer. Every year we think about one of our daughters who isn’t here for us to shower with gifts. One of our dear friends, a young mother of four children including a newborn, this week received the second cancer diagnosis of her 30-year life. Another friend, mother of three and my age, facing cancer.  Today a news alert on my phone reported the most horrific school shooting our nation has ever seen – so many children slain.

The most wonderful time of the year? How could it be? Because it’s for this that Christ came. The truth of the gospel is joy in pain. Christ came and “for the joy set before him endured the cross.” (Hebrews 12:2) I don’t understand it. I don’t really like it – I’ve had plenty of suffering to last me. But Christmas is joy. The advent of the savior who would go to the cross and face every sin that mankind has, is, or ever will commit. So the truth is that the suffering I have here will be eclipsed by the glory that is to come. The heaviness of the pain on this earth will be crushed by the weight of the glory that awaits the believer (2 Cor. 4:17).

This is my only hope. And I can rejoice! We put up a tree. We bought gifts, and we’ve baked cookies. Not without pain, to be sure. But inherent in our pain is joy. Joy in that child that was born to an obscure little couple in a hillside animal cave. Joy that he lived perfectly. Joy that he suffered the most heinous death known to man. Joy that he rose again to conquer the grave. Joy that he will return and all this pain will be swallowed up in victory.

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